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The land record collection of the Provincial Archives contains microfilms and originals of many important land transactions. The most useful are the land petitions and the old land deeds. The most helpful petitions were submitted between 1784 and about 1850. In general, the earlier land petitions contain more biographical information. Land petitions after 1850, as a rule, do not provide much information. Land records before 1784 are among the Nova Scotia records. Most of the petitions at the Provincial Archives are on microfilm. The following are also available on microfilm at the Provincial Archives:

  • General Index of Grants 1785 to 1830
  • Index to Land Grants 1765 to 1900
  • Index to Land Grants 1785 to 1852
  • Abstract Index of Grants 1785 to 1830

After the petition for land was made and the land grant issued, the provincial government was no longer involved in transactions concerning that particular piece of land. The Land Registration Office was created to handle all subsequent land sales. The old land deeds are the most useful of all the Land Registration Office records. They can provide names, dates, addresses, occupations, and similar information. The older deeds contain more information than the more modern deeds. The Provincial Archives have microfilms of these records as well as many indexes and maps.


What’s Available on the Internet

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick - Index to Land Petitions: Original Series, 1783-1918 A searchable database of the earliest petitions for land grants.

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick - Index to New Brunswick Land Grants 1784-1997  This is a searchable database of individuals and corporate bodies who acquired Crown land between 1784 and 1997.

Websites of Interest

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

New Brunswick Genealogical Society


Map of New Brunswick

New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island Map.jpg


When the mainland of Nova Scotia was ceded to Britain in 1713, France retained the area north of the isthmus, where Acadians had settled along the rivers, and built forts to protect them. These forts were taken by the British in 1755 and the Acadians were expelled although some did return after 1783 and did receive land at that time.

Men from the disbanded regiments after peace was reached between France and England, as well as, New Englanders and British immigrants, arrived shortly after 1755. The arrival of the Loyalists in 1784 augmented the population and in 1784 the province of New Brunswick was created. As a result, land records before 1784 are among Nova Scotia records. By 1867 New Brunswick was one of the founding provinces of the Dominion of Canada with Confederation. When New Brunswick was established in 1784 it was divided into eight counties. As time progressed and the population expanded the original counties were divided and new counties were set up. The final total was 15 and these counties are subdivided into civil parishes similar to American townships:

- Madawaska
- Restigouche
- Gloucester
- Northumberland
- Kent
- Sunbury
- Westmorland
- Albert
- Queens
- Kings
- St. John
- Charlotte
- York
- Carleton
- Victoria

New Brunswick Genealogical Society

The New Brunswick Genealogical Society Information Sheet provides a wealth of information including advice to write to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick and ask for a County Genealogical Guide for the county in New Brunswick where your ancestors lived. The guide lists the material that is available on microfilm, such as land and other records, with reel numbers for most items. You can then go to the library which has a microfilm reader and order and view the films. You may only order 3 films per request.

New Brunswick Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 3235 Station B
Fredericton, New Brunswick, E3A 5G9

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

The staff of the Provincial Archives will do a brief search for each written inquiry. Precise questions have the best chance of being answered. Where possible, indexed sources will be checked but because of the volume of inquiries and the intricacies of family history research, neither extensive research nor extensive photocopying will be done.

The land record collection of the Provincial Archives contains microfilms and originals of many land transactions. The most useful are the land petitions and the old deeds and the most helpful petitions were the ones submitted from 1784 to 1850. The earlier the petition the more personal information was given. After 1850 the land petitions do not generally give as much data. Remember that land records before 1784 are among the Nova Scotia records. There are other documents of value at the Archives on microfilm for your use:

  • ŸGeneral Index of Grants 1785 to 1830 Ÿ
  • Index to Land Grants, 1765 to 1900 Ÿ
  • Index to Land Grants 1785 to 1852 Ÿ
  • Abstract Index of Grants 1785 to 1830

Once the petition was made for land and the grant issued the provincial government was no longer involved in the rest of the transactions to do with that piece of land. The Land Registration Office would then be responsible to handle all subsequent land sales.

The old land deeds are the most useful as they may provide names, dates, addresses, occupations or similar information that is very valuable to a genealogist. These actual records have been microfilmed and are also at the Archives.

The Archives currently offers two searchable online databases at their website. This is a great boon to long distance researchers. The results are from indexes, and you will still have to explore the original documents. They are:

  • Index to Land Petitions, 1783-1918 (RS 108)
  • Index to New Brunswick Land Grants, 1784-1997 (RS 686)

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
Richard Bennett Hatfield Archives Complex
Bonar Law - Bennett Building
23 Dineen Drive
UNB Campus
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Telephone: 506-453-2122

Mailing Address
P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5H1

Some Land Terminology

  • Petition or Memorial: A written statement by an individual (or group) giving the reasons why they should receive a grant of land.
  • Survey or Description of Land Grant: These describe the “metes and bounds” of a piece of land. There may be a plan showing the shape of the lot.
  • Grant: Legal conveyance by written instrument, a formal conferment, used in reference to a transfer of land ownership from the Crown to an individual.
  • Deed: A written or printed document detailing a legal transfer of ownership and bearing the signature of the disposer. Usually refers to transfers after the first Crown grant.
  • Instrument: Document indicating a transfer of ownership. An instrument can be a Bargain and Sale, Conveyance, Mortgage, Discharge of Mortgage, Will, Quit Claim, Release, Final Order for Foreclosure, etc.

Interval land—is river lowland, both island and riverbank, that floods in the spring with the run-off or freshet as snow melts in the watershed and uplands. Like the annual flooding of the Nile, this enriches the land annually and interval land produces good hay and is great pasture. The St. John River valley has a lot of such land. Not to be confused with dyked marshland.

The Land Grant Process

The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB) online research includes RS108, an “Index to Land Petitions: Original Series 1783-1918.” This includes a full explanation of the land granting process and an “Historical Background” which is well worth studying with some care. However, the basic steps were:

1) The settler wanting a grant of crown land submitted a petition to the Lieutenant Governor (later to the Crown Land Office) explaining why they should have it, often very informative
2) The Lieutenant Governor in Council, acting as a Committee of Council on Land (see RS568) would approve or disallow the petition.
3) If the petition was allowed, an order/warrant of survey (see RS687A) would be issued to the deputy-surveyor who had to establish the boundaries of the grant to be issued. Field notes made by the deputy-surveyors (see RS1021) describe the boundaries, further material may be found in RS687B and RS637.
4) The returns were used to draw up the official land grant (see RS686) and a copy of the grant was issued to the petitioner (grantee) and became his proof of ownership.
5) A record of grants given to petitioners was kept in grantbooks.
6) All subsequent transactions such as selling, leasing, or mortgaging between individuals required registration at the county registry offices (see RS84 to RS98). Occasionally wills will be found in these records.

Searchable Databases

There are two separate databases that can be searched from the PANB website. Do not confuse them.

  • Land Grant Database at UNB: Land Grants—Searching the Grantbook Database
    This is an index to entries in the grantbooks, in which each original grant of land was itemized, giving name or names of grantees, date, place and county, how many acres, and the volume number, page number, and grant number. Search by name of grantee or county and place of settlement.

Petitions and information on the grants can be followed up at the PANB.

Nova Scotia, 1763-1784

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, control of the territory which is now called New Brunswick passed back and forth between the French and English. On February 10, 1763 the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years War and the area became a possession of Great Britain. Under the administration at Halifax, the territory north of the Bay of Fundy was known as the Counties of Sunbury and Cumberland. Significant efforts were made to establish settlements (townships) on the St. John and Petitcodiac Rivers and in the Chignecto Isthmus.

Land papers for these early years of settlement, i.e. the petitions, grants, etc. are held in Nova Scotia, at the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM) filed under RG20, Series “A”, pre 1800. Land was sometimes granted to a group of “Associates”, and the names of these official first grantees may not be those of the actual settlers. The PANB has an index of early Nova Scotia grants from 1713 and the later New Brunswick land grant records from 1762 are on Microfilm.[1]

An index is on films F-1744 and F-1755. On reels F-1734 to F-1764 are copies of the old Nova Scotia Grant Books.

New Brunswick After August 1784

In the newly founded colony of New Brunswick, the land granting process was essentially the same as in other British possessions. Brenda Dougall Merriman’s, Genealogy In Ontario: Searching the Records has detailed descriptions of British colonial records which, though generated in Ontario, may be relevant regardless of what British North American colony you are researching.

Index 1783-1918

The searchable index to the petitions in RS108 (1783-1918) totals about 67,300 entries. Do be sure to read the various rules used in compiling the index at the end of the introduction, since many more names than that of the actual petitioner are included. Unfortunately, in the 1850s the province began to issue standardized forms for petitions and because the information required was minimal, they are less helpful to the researcher.

RS272 Land Petitions: Current series includes petitions between 1830 and the present: it is called “Land Petitions: Current Series” because it is an on-going series. The land petitions since 1830 which were granted were numbered by the department and that system is still in use today. It also seems that all petitions within RS272 were granted whereas those within RS108 may not have been.

The actual petitions are available only on microfilm; the microfilm number (“F-number”) is included in the index. Also, the entire index is available on microfilm F13763. The films can be viewed at the PANB in Fredericton, or at a library participating in the inter-library or inter-archives microfilm loan program. It is also possible to obtain a copy of the petition, see the end of the online introduction for details of current costs, etc.

Land Grantbooks

A second searchable database is that of the Grantbook Database, and if you are curious about neighbours, this can be searched in the second and third fields by county and place of settlement. You must then contact PANB for full details, maps, etc.

Land Transfers After The First Grant
Once land was granted to a settler, the government at Fredericton ceased to keep any record, but in each county a land registration office was set up where every transfer of ownership (by sale, mortgage, lease, will, whatever), had to be registered. In some cases the PANB has both the county registry office records (to about 1974) and the index to the records which may run to a dozen reels of microfilm.

The index microfilms can be borrowed, but check the County Guides for the numbers. Using the index, find the book number and page number. With this information, a photocopy of the transaction can be obtained. For complete instructions see the individual County Guide.

Also look to see what county tax records survive, whether there are lists of quit rents paid, lists of grantees in some specific area, or other land-related material. If you need a sequence of searches to trace changes in ownership, it might be best to employ someone locally to conduct the search.

Cadastral Maps

These are maps that show the actual borders of each lot of land with the name of the grantee. Copies are held by the PANB and the Lands Branch of the Department of Natural Resources. Copies can be obtained from the Lands Branch for a fee. These can be useful in showing the names of neighbours, and so possible spouses, the location of churches and graveyards.

As well, the Archives has other maps and survey plans, containing information on boundaries, landforms, fortifications, waterways, railways, roads, and the growth of communities. These are indexed by category or purpose, geographical location, and name of cartographer or surveyor.

Crown land surveys represent the largest and most frequently consulted group of cartographic records. Approximately 10,000 plans for the 19th and 20th centuries show boundaries, allocation of land, and tracts reserved for timber and mineral resources, mills, wharves, roads and railways.

County Maps and Atlases
The PANB and Library and Archives Canada both have collections of the large-scale atlases, county wall maps (also large scale), and county survey plans that were produced during the latter half of the 19th century. These published surveys cover towns, villages and dispersed settlements; they show locations of buildings, identify residents, and list names and occupations of individuals who subscribed to the works. H.E. Halfpenny’s 1878 Atlas was published in facsimile as Historical Atlas of York County, New Brunwick and St. John, New Brunwick (City and County), by Mika Publishing in 1973. The maps contain detailed information but only for the two counties and the two major urban centres, Fredericton and Saint John which is where the subscribers lived of course.

At Library and Archives Canada
The New Brunswick Executive Council records, 1784-1867 were once in the care of the National Archives (NA) when it was the Public Archives of Canada (PAC); here they were microfilmed. When the PANB was established these records were returned to the province and reorganized. Microfilms, under the old arrangement MG9 A1, are still available at Library and Archives Canada, and Finding Aid #121 includes nominal indexes to many of the files of petitions, applications, intestate estates, and patent applications.

As late as 1988, PANB was listing RG 2 Records of the Central Executive:

  • Ÿ RS7 Executive Council Records: PAC Series
  • Ÿ RS8 Executive Council Records: PANB Series

It is advisable to work with the newer PANB series and its indexes at the PANB, but you might encounter the PAC/NA references in earlier research.[2]

Web Sites

A wiki article describing this collection is found at:

New Brunswick, County Deed Registry Books (FamilySearch Historical Records)


  1. Don Dixon, G.R.S., "Researching Records at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick," Generations, Vol.20, No.3, Fall 1998, pages 29. Further articles on the same subject are published in Fall 1998 and Summer 2000 issues
  2. Murphy, Sharon L., Brenda Dougall Merriman, and Frances Coe. "New Brunswick Land Records (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012),


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  • This page was last modified on 4 August 2014, at 22:57.
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